Poem with an explanation: You who call in the night

You who call in the night,
what do you need?

Is it

  sustenance?
  a resolution?
  a warning of dread?
  an insignificance?
  just a presence?

You who call in the night,
what do you need?

 

This poem has two levels, the literal and the metaphorical.

On the literal level, the poem is about a simple idea: a dog outside a house barking with a sound to get attention.  The dog is the one who calls in the night, and the person in the house asks what the dog needs.

The person in the house believes the dog is barking so that:

  the person will bring the dog food
  the person will solve a problem for the dog (ex. something is caught on the dog’s collar)
  the person will be aware of something bad (ex. a storm, an animal, an intruder)
  the person will just listen, and there is nothing the dog needs,
  or the person will come outside and spend time with the dog.

When the dog barks, the person questions what the dog needs.  After the list of things, the person questions the dog again.  It is interesting, that at the end of the poem, the person does not actually see what the dog wants, nor does anything for the dog (at least it isn’t stated that they do).

On a metaphorical level, the poem could be seen as about a group in humanity calling out for help.  It could be refugees or the poor of some area or people affected by a war.  Although not equating the two, the poem uses the literal idea of a dog barking for something, to express the idea of the group calling out for help.

The group calls out in the night (from some place of darkness) and others in humanity who hear, question what they want.

As with the dog, they think the group is crying out for:

  aid (sustenance)
  a solving of what is causing their problem (a resolution)
  to warn others that what is harming them might harm others (a warning of dread)
  for no reason (from the perspective of the ones hearing – they may not realize the significance of the plight of the group and think their call is insignificant) (an insignificance)
  for intervention (just a presence).

Again, as with the dog, the ones who hear question the callers, but nothing is said if they help them or not.

The idea of the poem was to take something simple (a dog barking) and apply it to something significant (the plight of some group in humanity).

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